The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association on Sunday asked the administration to apologise to historian Romila Thapar for the decision to review her professor emerita post, PTI reported. The association said the decision was “politically motivated” and a “deliberate attempt to try and dishonour those who have been critical of the current administration”.

In July, the university administration asked Thapar to submit her CV so that it can decide if she should continue as professor emerita. Thapar had retired from the university in 1991 and was made professor emerita two years later. Once chosen for the honour, an academic typically continues in the post throughout their life. The post does not have financial benefits.

“The insult to Prof Romila Thapar is just another politically motivated step in this regard, motivated no doubt by the active and steadfast support and inspiration she has provided to the teachers and students of JNU in their fight to keep the university in line with the vision and ideals embedded into its foundations,” the association said.

The teachers’ association “expressed outrage” at the efforts by the administration to “denigrate the teaching and learning traditions of JNU via its tasteless communications” to Thapar.

The university’s executive council had in August 2018 revised the guidelines for appointing emeritus professors, PTI reported. The new guidelines said that once such professors reach the age of 75, their continuation in the post would be reviewed based on their “health status, willingness, availability, university needs, etc, so that more positions will be available to other potential candidates”. Thapar is 87.

According to the guidelines, the executive council will appoint a sub-committee to review each professor’s case through measures such as meeting them and asking them for an updated CV.

The teachers’ association said Thapar had been appointed professor emerita 25 years before this “misplaced guideline was formulated”. “Any retrospective application of this guideline to her is simply illegal, but the very formulation of this guideline by the EC [Executive Council] is a clear indication of how bereft it is of an understanding of the academic and intellectual life of a university,” the statement said.

Writing in Economic and Political Weekly, economist Prabhat Patnaik said that JNU registrar Pramod Kumar had written to Thapar in July, asking for her CV so that a “committee appointed by the university could evaluate” her work and decide whether she should continue in the university.

Sharing a report about the developments, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “JNU asking Romila Thapar to submit a CV to JNU to continue her Professor Emerita status is worse than an insult, it is a crime against the values & principles of education & respect for intellectual merit. Can JNU sink any lower?”

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